Book Review: ‘Ready Player One: A Novel’ by Ernest Cline

I have heard great things about this book for a few years now. I have meant to read it but life is a busy bitch most of the time. However, I definitely wanted to experience and know the book before the Steven Spielberg film adaptation of it hit theaters, which happens later this month.

I didn’t really know what to expect but I did know that the film primarily takes place in a virtual world and was littered with a shit ton of pop culture references, primarily from the 1980s. I grew up at the same time as the author (and the genius mastermind who built an empire in the book) and I knew that this would mostly likely jive with me.

It’s a book that really taps into the nostalgia of the 1980s and for someone who was there, it is really hard to avoid getting sucked into this tale. Cline wrote this with a lot of passion and it mirrors the passion I had, as well as my friends, back in the ’80s when we were experiencing all of these things first hand. Nostalgia alone can’t carry a story, however.

Although, with or without nostalgia as a real driving force in the creative direction of this book, the characters were all very good and you cared for them and their quest. Wade, the main character, really reflected a lot of myself and I’m sure Ernest Cline, in his love and appreciation for all of these pop culture things. He also reflected back who my friends were in childhood and in my teen years.

Wade’s friends were sort of a combination of typical ’80s kids mixed with the social norms of modern times, as nowadays, many people only know each other online and haven’t actually met in person. Not that that’s actually a bad thing but the book makes a point to remind us all to step outside of the OASIS (the virtual world) and to truly connect with people in the flesh. In fact, an important piece of advice is given to Wade at the end, and that is that true happiness can only be found “out there” (the real physical world).

Wade does find happiness but he finds much more than that too. He has to deal with tragedy, loss, a truly broken heart and the weight of the world being on his shoulders. While his goal is to win the contest within the story, his true goal is to save the digital world from a corporate giant who seeks to exploit it for profit and in effect, control everything in the real world due to how tied into the OASIS everyone has become.

There is a big ’80s pop culture boom going on, right now. Especially after the success of Stranger ThingsIt and other shows and films that sort of bring people back to that era from a childlike point of view. Ready Player One came out at the perfect time and maybe it will open the door to that cultural era for younger generations to appreciate.

I liked this book for a lot of reasons. But after reading it, I can’t really envision how this can even translate to screen. Sure, I’ve seen the trailers and they’ve got me pretty excited but this is such a unique story that I can’t imagine that adapting it won’t be an immense challenge, even for a legend like Steven Spielberg. I guess we’ll see in less than a month’s time how this pans out.

I’m not a big fan of dropping spoilers but sometimes it is unavoidable in a review. However, I’m not going to say how or when or why but this book has one of the most badass moments in literary history when Ultraman shows up to battle Mechagodzilla. I mean, holy f’n shit, that whole sequence in the book had me smiling like Aech after being exposed to Smylex hygiene products.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Just about every pop culture reference wedged between its covers.

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